Coastal cliff ground motions from local ocean swell and infragravity waves in southern California



[1] Ground motions atop a southern California, USA coastal cliff are compared with water level fluctuations observed at the cliff base, and with ground motions observed 10 km inland. At high tide, cliff top ground motions in three frequency bands were generated locally by ocean waves at the cliff base: (1) high-frequency (>0.3 Hz) “shaking” caused by waves impacting the cliff, and (2) gravitational loading-induced “swaying” at the frequency of the incident sea swell waves (0.05–0.1 Hz), and (3) slow “swaying” at infragravity frequencies (0.006–0.05 Hz). At high tide, at infragravity and incident sea swell wave frequencies, cliff top vertical ground displacement and cliff base water level fluctuations are coherent and oscillate in phase (with occasional deviation at sea swell frequencies), and spectral levels at the cliff top are much higher than at the inland seismometer. In contrast, at “double frequencies” (0.1–0.3 Hz) spectral levels of vertical motions are nearly identical inland and at the cliff top, consistent with a common (distant or spatially distributed) source. At low tide, when ocean waves did not reach the cliff base, power levels of vertical ground motions at the cliff top decreased to inland levels at incident wave frequencies and higher, and only infragravity-band motions were noticeably forced by local ocean waves.